"The Wilderness of Childhood"

I really enjoyed this essay by Michael Chabon.  I mean, I love his fiction (and you may remember that The Yiddish Policemen’s Union was one of my favorite books that I read last year) but he’s a great essayist as well.  I plan to read the collection from which this essay comes when it’s released in October.  I really don’t have much to add to Chabon’s thoughts on the place of wilderness, exploration, and yes, even a little danger in childhood.  But I related to it on so many levels I wanted to mention it here.

One of the things that struck me the most was Chabon’s description of the forest near his childhood home.  I spent some of my own Maryland childhood in a town where we also had a small forest in which I ran and explored.  I actually had to do some Googling to see if Chabon and I grew up in the same place, because his description so closely matched the woods I remember.  It turns out we didn’t, but the experience of our individual forests seems to have meant something similiar to both of us.

During the years I lived there, my best friend and I mapped our woods.  Not a technical map, but a landscape of impressions, feelings, and dreams.  We caught fireflies in the twilight, and salamanders in the humid heat of the day.  We spent hours exploring, and gave our own names to certain places, the clearings, streams, and even some of the recognizable trees.  In doing so, we engaged in an act of fundamental discovery.  The woods were small, and many of our neighbors passed through them.  But no one walked through the same woods I did, the woods my friend and I had found.

I plan to return to those woods one day.  Not physically, which I’ve already done as an adult, but emotionally and mentally.  I plan to write a novel set in those woods (or woods very much like them).  They say that you can never go back to your past.  I have found that in writing, I can.


There is an event coming up that I also wanted to mention.  On Saturday the 29th of August, twenty Utah writers, including Shannon Hale, Brandon Mull, Sara Zarr, Rick Walton, and many others, will gather at the Treehouse Children’s Museum in Ogden for a workshop.

The Writing for Charity Event, a workshop for aspiring children’s book writers (age 13 and up only), will provide participants with professional advice and the opportunity to have their work evaluated by one of the event’s participating authors. The event includes the opportunity to purchase books and have books signed. Participants can also purchase drawing tickets for great prizes, including signed books and a book bag signed by all of the participating authors.

All proceeds from the event will benefit the non-profit Treehouse Children’s Museum and its award-winning Family Literacy Programs.

Go here to find out more about it, and to register.  The event has been very successful in the past, and it looks like it will be another great year.

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2 responses to “"The Wilderness of Childhood"”

  1. Thanks for sharing that article, and for your own insight. It reminded me of Kathryn Patterson’s Bridge to Terebithia. It also reminded me of the “mountain” behind my grandmother’s Nevada home, the intertwined maze of irrigations ditches hidden throughout the suburban back yards of American Fork, and the delights of exploring the skeletal beginnings of homes, that were to be part of a new development in my neighborhood, after the construction crew had left for the day. I so hope today’s children have the ingrained ability to get away from their screens from time to time and map out their own childhoods.

    Will you be one of the authors at the Tree House event?

    • Yes, I’ll be one of the authors, although without having a published novel (yet) I’m not sure in what capacity I’ll be volunteering. But they said they want me there, so I’ll be there!

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